As Ukraine and Russia tensions rise, local experts weigh on on the potential impact to western Mass.

As Ukraine and Russia tensions rise, local experts weigh on on the potential impact to western Mass.
Published: Mar. 4, 2022 at 12:12 AM EST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) -With tensions escalating between Russia and Ukraine, we checked in with local experts on the potential impact to western Mass.

Ira Helfand said while the ongoing threat of nuclear war has never been realized, he is concerned about the current volatile situation in eastern Europe and is calling on world leaders to put down nuclear weapons before it is too late.

“Nuclear war between the united states and Russia is a real possibility in this moment and it will remain a possibility until we get rid of those weapons,” said Helfand.

Helfand spoke with Western Mass News about Russian president Vladamir Putin’s explicit threats to use nuclear weapons if other countries intervened on behalf of Ukraine and last Sunday, placing his nuclear forces on high alert.

“Two questions worth asking at this point, where is President Putin coming from and what does President Putin really want? And these questions are hard for you to get your arms around,” said Gary LeFort, a retired US Army Lieutenant Colonel and American International College Professor.

We also checked in with a local retired army official and AIC professor who weighed in on the situation on Thursday night.

“Today President Putin sees the west as weak so why not flex his muscles and see how far he can go?” said LeFort.

So what is the concern level if President Putin continues to flex his muscles, according to LeFort?

“It is an extraordinarily dangerous situation to have a person under this kind of stress behaving in this a rational manner in control of 6000 nuclear warheads,” said Helfand.

Helfand, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, said while nuclear weapons have only been used once, by the United States against Japan in World War II, we are approaching uncharted waters.

“This is unprecedented, this level of nuclear threatening during a crisis situation,” said Helfand.

And now he’s taking action through a campaign called “back from the brink,” aimed at convincing American leaders to begin negotiations to put down their arms now.

“We need to address this urgently and we need to secure the permanent elimination of these weapons once and for all because it is not a question of ‘if,’ if these weapons continue to exist it is only a question of when,” said Helfand.

Helfand has also convinced local leaders to sign onto his petition in the last few years, including the Springfield, Easthampton, and Northampton city councils.

To sign “Back from the Brink” global petition, visit